A guide to the GSE Learning Objectives

When learning something new, maintaining a good level of motivation is key – and this applies to learning English, too. Students learn at different rates, and motivation will vary from learner to learner, so it’s useful to have a way to measure their English skills...

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When learning something new, maintaining a good level of motivation is key – and this applies to learning English, too. Students learn at different rates, and motivation will vary from learner to learner, so it’s useful to have a way to measure their English skills and provide step-by-step goals that they can aim for. The Global Scale of English (GSE) Learning Objectives can do just that.

The GSE is a global standard that allows teachers and learners to accurately measure progress. It provides an easy answer to students asking questions such as, “How good is my English?” and “Am I progressing?” To motivate students and help them move to the next level, the GSE Learning Objectives give learners guidance on what to concentrate on next. Learning a language requires a mix of skills across reading, writing, speaking and listening. If a student understands that they are weaker in one skill they can focus more on this area to help raise their overall proficiency score, or they can tailor their learning to meet the needs of their overall learning goal. They have all been constructed in accordance with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).

There are different GSE Learning Objectives for different groups of learners, and all have been developed by teachers, ELT authors and language experts from around the world. They all describe what a learner should be able to do at every point on the GSE. Once they have a firm grasp of one goal, it’s time to move on to the next one!

Let’s meet the different groups of learners and explore the learning objectives a bit more…

GSE Learning Objectives for Adult Learners

The GSE Learning Objectives for Adult Learners are aimed at people who might be learning English for pleasure, for example for social or travel reasons. Or they may be learning the language for immigration requirements. They again provide step-by-step detailed learning models for the four skills of reading, writing, speaking and listening.

For these kinds of learners, it will be necessary for them to develop a core proficiency in English, so these objectives have been developed with this in mind. So, for example, an early reading objective refers to being able to recognise common foods and drinks on a menu, while a listening objective asks whether the learner can recognise the numbers 1 to 20 being spoken in English. The most important thing is that all adult learners can use these objectives to measure their progress, whatever their ultimate goal.

GSE Learning Objectives for Academic English

The GSE Learning Objectives for Academic English are aimed at learners who are using English as a medium for academic study, whatever their level and whatever their subject. The Learning Objectives address the needs of both adult and young adult learners in education, with a focus on academic study at the tertiary/post-secondary level. Because all learners need to acquire a core proficiency in English, these objectives include the Learning Objectives developed for adult learners of general English.

Teachers are increasingly aware of the need to be learner-focused when creating lessons and courses that link to students’ needs and expectations. For this reason, these Learning Objectives provide a detailed and graded model of target performance across a range of skills that can inform teaching materials and this Barbara Gardner, Learning Technologies Training Coordinator, says: “Students often complain about their lack of perceived progress and will welcome the opportunity to work towards certain, defined objectives.”

GSE Learning Objectives for Professional English

LinkedIn research has revealed that 83% of business leaders believe there is a need for a global standard of English proficiency, and the GSE Learning Objectives for Professional English provide that. The learning objectives are aimed at a specific group of learners who are using English for work or professional purposes, or are being trained or educated for a profession where English is widely used. They can be used by learners in all fields of professional work, whatever their level of English.

The Learning Objectives cover the kind of English skills and tasks necessary in an occupational setting – in other words, where the use of English is necessary to meet business or professional needs. Typically, though not exclusively, this refers to organisations, businesses, and other entities where native speakers of different languages use English as a common medium of communication. Global companies increasingly view English language skills as a core competency for their employees, and these Learning Objectives provide a better understanding of the specific English skills required to do a particular job.

Support for Young Learners

Our most recent research focused on young learners, aged 6-14. Some English tasks are inaccessible to young learners until they reach a certain level of cognitive development and the CEFR isn’t appropriate for them. That’s why we’re undertaking new research, following the model of the CEFR, to create a similar set of Learning Objectives for Young Learners. We are currently working with hundreds of experienced teachers from around the world who are helping to rate new descriptors. While this work is ongoing, we welcome feedback from teachers and ELT practitioners who have experience of working with young learners.

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